Monday, September 18, 2006

Vorovoro - USA magazine article

USA Today 14th September:

Excerpt from article, and they have a video too. Check out USA Today.

The cameras are rolling when the adventure begins at the Grand Eastern Hotel in Labasa, a dusty commercial center for the sugarcane-growing region on Vanua Levu, one of Fiji's two main islands, and a 30-minute boat ride from Vorovoro...

Keene, engaging and boyish-looking with perennially tousled strawberry-blond hair, introduces the Tribewanted team — tribe manager, tribal TV presenter, health and safety guy and a British documentary team. As part of the orientation, Baya runs through kava ceremony etiquette. (Don't stand when the chief is seated — unless you're a cameraman.)

There's a perfunctory safety briefing, elaborated on later: In case of fire, run toward the sea. Beware of falling coconuts. Watch for poisonous sea snakes. (The bad news, there's no antidote. The good news, they're shy.)

And with the ritual signing of the liability waiver, the group is off in a fleet of taxis to the dock, where a telegenic red-and-blue wooden boat carries them to Vorovoro.

It doesn't take long to lose track of time here. Several women from Tui Mali's extended family serve meals — island fare such as fish curry, coconut cake, cassava and banana pancakes — until the kitchen is up and running and the visiting tribe pitches in. The world's third-largest reef lies offshore, and the snorkeling is amazing. Several members are perfecting their fire-twirling skills. Others learn to weave grass mats. There's work for those who want it — cleaning up old fire sites, heightening the bucket shower, installing springs on the toilet doors.

The early days play out like Lord of the Flies (before things went terribly wrong) and The Beach (also before things went terribly wrong), with a hint of Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing-the-fence episode. In some ways, it's like an adult summer camp. But there's also an element of self-aggrandizing make-believe. For instance, when Warren Wright, 44, who has been elected chief of the month by the online tribe, kneels before real-life chief Tui Mali at the welcoming kava ceremony, and says, "I represent many people from around the world joined together to live in harmony with each other and the environment," well, it's just a tad over the top.

This is, after all, a business proposition, albeit one with some lofty ideals. And that welcoming ceremony, though beautifully choreographed and authentically executed by the real-tribe dancers and singers, wouldn't have occurred if Tribewanted hadn't paid about $300 and a black-market whale's tooth for the privilege. The three-year lease fee is $35,000, plus $5,800 a year in rent, and $17,500 in donations to the community, along with salaries for workers.

"We're not here to change lives," Keene says. "We're here to have an adventure, to have a positive impact and protect the environment."

The big bure has been started with local expertise and a few sweating pale-skinned volunteers.

edited 22 Sept.


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...
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Anonymous said...

Bula si'a na talai ni 'alou!

What a wonderful blog site. Thank you so much for sharing these developments from Macuata. I guess the sun is now rising over the 'forgotten province'. Ratu Sukuna did say that time only will tell, when Caumatalevu's sun will shine....will it be the tourism industry perhaps?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

A breath of fresh air to hear from someone from babasiga. Bula si'a. Keep on telling your story please.